Life’s Defining Stages — Where Are You Now?
From birth till death, there are four life-defining stages. We all grow, develop and mature as we continue to move on in life. For some, the transition from one stage to another feels like a natural process, while others find themselves stuck in a stage for decades. Sadly, some might even skip a stage without learning the important lessons of a given stage.
There are a few distinct stages of life we go through once we are ready. These stages are true for all humans throughout the course of their life. By closely watching the life of our mentors, family, and friends, allows one to recognise patterns behind these different phases of life. This can help you to shift gears when it comes to your own growth and your pursuit of success.
Stage 1: Imitation and Education
The first stage represents all the basics of life. You learn how to walk, talk and do simple tasks like feeding yourself. In this stage, life is focused around education and building the fundament for your lifetime ahead. How? Simply imitating what you see others do. Who? All those adults around you, your teachers, parents, even superheroes, they’ll show you how to function.
As a baby, you are helpless and dependent upon others for survival. You basically just eat, sleep and breathe. Your mind is at peace while the brain develops, picking up sensory abilities and motor skills.
By later childhood, you move on to more challenging tasks, while still depending on adults to guide you. By imitating others, you gradually develop social and similar skills and learn to fit in with society. You start to observe the rules and norms that surround you. You want to be accepted by society, and therefore, you obey to these rules and adapt to these norms.
The basic objective of all of this is to help us become self-regulated adults. Please keep in mind that you are still dependent upon others for guidance and seek for their approval. Out of all the stages of life, this one helps us to lie the proper foundation.
You remain in the first stage from birth until late adolescence or early adulthood. The greatest danger you can encounter during this stage is that you are unable to let go of the need for external validation. You might get trapped by adults that do not approve of you becoming independent. Some adults are simply not suited for teaching. They come up with forms of punishment that can prevent us from developing true independence.
When you have the courage to place your personal values above the validation of others and start acting for yourself, the next stage is entered.
“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” — Roy E. Disney
Stage 2: Exploration and Self-Discovery
As the first stage taught you to fit in, the second stage will teach you to stand apart. In this time of life, you are ready to discover who you really are. You are now making your own decisions and learning what makes you unique from others.
The end of adolescence marks the beginning of your journey into adulthood, which is the longest phase of the human life cycle. You completed your education, and your focus lies now on acquiring a good job. It’s the time where you start to explore life and go out to leave your mark on the world.
In addition, you develop a strong desire to explore life and it increases your willingness to take risks. You start to experiment with new and exciting possibilities. You will make many, and I mean many mistakes, learning from trial and error. You will live in many places, try different food and experiment with all sorts of activities. You might have numerous relationships with both lovers and friends in this stage as well.
The second stage can be extremely pleasurable and exciting. Therefore, some people simply do not wish to ever leave this stage. Instead of allowing their development to unfold, they prefer to continue life on this level. As well, at some point, you will notice your limitations, and it will anger you. You probably start off by not accepting these limitations and push to try and achieve them regardless.
With time, you learn that your limitations are real, and that they are a good thing. They show you what you’re bad at, and after all, you can’t be great at everything. The second stage is accomplished once we realise that we have to be selective about what we do. Limitations will help you transition into stage three.
“If you accept your limitations, you go beyond them.” — Brendan Francis
Stage 3: Dedication and Commitment
So, you have allowed your developments to unfold and accepted your limitations. In the third stage, you begin to arrange your priorities as you see fit. In stage three, you evaluate what you are good at, and what benefits your life — also called being selective. You don’t want to bring needless luggage from stage two with you. This could be people who hold you down, unhealthy activities, material attachments or places.
After you have cut away the unimportant aspects, you start to get serious about what you have kept. For example, your focus is now your career and the development of a young family. Stage three marks a great number of responsibilities, not only for ourselves but also for others. At this point, you start to build your legacy.
Building your legacy is about leaving something behind when you are gone. At stage three, you begin the foundation for this legacy, including priorities and responsibilities. Most people in stage three have the desire to leave the world a better place than how they found it.
For some, the ambition to accomplish even more never comes to an end. People are so used to constantly strive for more, they have anxiety with the outlook of retirement. And once that day comes, the hunger for accomplishments and power starts to haunt them and they miss out on the next important stage in life.
“Dreams and dedication are a powerful combination.” — William F. Longgoo
Stage 4: Retirement and Passing Down Your Legacy
Whenever you reach stage four, you have probably spent half a century investing in yourself. Perhaps you’ve gotten married, had two children, and nailed your dream job during these stages of life. Maybe you’ve managed to live a comfortable life. Then again, maybe you’ve experienced a turbulent life, filled with adventure and misfortune. Either way, stage four is the conclusion of life, lived well or not.
At this age, unfortunately, you can no longer afford discoveries and adventures. Stage four is about ensuring the legacy is passed down to your or other children, and teaching and helping them move through their life stages in a healthy manner.
This stage is about finding meaning in life and death. It offers us the chance to make sure something of us continues to live on in this world, even when we are long gone.
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” — Norman Cousins
Feel free to share with me where you are on your journey.
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